12-Step Program For Muslims Celebrates 30th Anniversary

By Victoria Kim 07/31/19

Millati Islami, which follows a similar format to other 12-step programs, was established in September 1989 at a mosque in Baltimore.

Muslim women on their way to a 12-step program

Last Saturday (July 27), Millati Islami World Services—a 12-step program for Muslims—celebrated its 30th anniversary in Camden, New Jersey, home to the program’s longest-running chapter in the region.

“Millati Islami is a fellowship of men and women, joined together on the ‘Path of Peace.’ We share our experiences, strengths, and hopes while recovering from our active addiction to mind and mood altering substances,” according to the official website of Millati Islami World Services. “We look to Allah (G-D) to guide us on Millati Islami (the Path of Peace). While recovering, we strive to be rightly guided Muslims, submitted our will and services to Allah.”

There’s no shortage of heated debate about the role of religion in 12-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. Some choose to define their “higher power” as God from the Christian or Catholic religion. For those who don’t subscribe to any religion, secular meetings are available.

However, one religious group that isn’t often discussed in the recovery realm is Muslims. The Quran advises one to avoid intoxicants like drugs and alcohol. It’s not hard to understand why there would be a stigma against Muslims who struggle with substance abuse.

“We are a part of this society, and we suffer the good and the bad that comes with the society,” said Ameen Abdur-Rasheed. “And I believe that within the past 10 years, the stigma for Muslims of being an addict or an alcoholic is diminishing because it is so widespread in many of our families.”

Abdur-Rasheed held recovery meetings for Muslims in West Philadelphia back in 2007, but the lack of attendance meant that he was not able to maintain the group.

All Are Welcome

Millati Islami, which follows a similar format to other 12-step programs, was established in September 1989 at a mosque in Baltimore, Maryland. By adapting Islamic principles to the 12 steps, Muslims are provided a program that they can relate to. Nonetheless, they make a point of welcoming all people to the program.

“We are in the business of saving lives and that’s why we try to encourage everybody of any status in life of any faith to come,” said Stephanie Adams, who is the secretary of the Camden chapter of Millati Islami.

Adams joined the fellowship a decade ago. “Now Millati Islami has been there for me in some hard times,” she told WHYY. “It helped me through depression, it helped me through heartbreak. The most help I received from Millati Islami was in the last four years because it teaches you that there is nothing that can ever make you go back to using.”

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr